Highball is a Noah Baumbach film that nobody's ever heard of, and even Noah Baumbach doesn't put his name on it (he uses the pseudonym "Ernie Fusco" as director and "Jesse Carter" as writer).
I failed in my attempts to find adequate DVD artwork to pilfer for the benefit of this post. The above shitty image is the best my Google searches yielded.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement for this little '90s film. I could try to write such an endorsement, but this guy did that already. Read that and come back. I'll wait.
I mostly own this film because I have all of Noah Baumbach's films on DVD, and even his lesser films still have merit. Also, I'm a completist and I can't stop.
I have to look past the technical issues — the awful lighting, the jump cuts, the tinny soundtrack — and focus on the writing and acting. Do that, and this is a solid little independent made on a shoestring.
I've been to some parties like the ones depicted in this film. The formula is pretty easy: Create a mixed company situation, introduce a guest or guests who has/have some insane perspective perfectly rationalized (I'm suddenly remembering the woman I once met who confessed that she stops taking birth control when she meets a new man), and see what happens when they spout their bullshit madness in mixed company. "Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan makes a lot of sense! What do you mean, you need a Constitutional Amendment to implement that? Sounds like a liberal conspiracy!"
Honestly, I think there's such a thing as a sociopathic party host, and they collect batshit crazy friends who don't get along. And then they invite everyone to the same party.
You know when a friend tells you, "I have to introduce you to my friend so-and-so, because you guys would really get along great." This is the opposite — this is a party host not telling you anything, and instead ambushing you with an asshole. "I don't really like you, so I'm going to introduce you to this other asshole I don't really like, because you'll hate each other and that is funny to me."
[They don't really say that. But they think that.]
Having suspected this sort of thing for some time, I sometimes look for the batshit crazy person when I'm at a party. Maybe someone walks in with an ironic hat or eyewear or facial hair (dead giveaway), or keeps insisting we turn off the music and put on his or her band's new bullshit EP instead, or maybe he or she brings the single most disgusting dish of sweet smelling nastiness full of cat hair and shame. You know, for sharing.
If I can't find him or her, I just assume it's me.
If you've been to enough parties, you've seen the usual stuff:
- Someone inevitably drinks too much and makes a total asshole of him or herself. With any luck, there is crying involved, and I get video of it.
- Somebody says something political or homophobic or racist or sexist or just generally ignorant, and other people get pissed off and clam up or leave the room. Even better, someone gets pissed off and stays in the room to speak up. "Hey man, that's not cool — my sister is a leper."
- Someone else tells a story about some local yuppie bullshit for which they currently have a chub. "I brew all my own beer, make all my own clothes, and of course, all of the food you're eating was created from the molecular level using only the finest locally grown organic molecules that I picked up at the molecular farmer's market at 5 o'clock this morning while walking the labradoodle. Did I mention I'm an asshole?"
Or, you know, "All of the products you're eating and drinking are Amway...as well as that couch! Here, let's watch this quick DVD and I'll show you all how you can make a fuck-ton of dollars!"
All that well-deserved ranting and ridicule aside, I've also met some great friends this way, had some great food, and made some great memories. We've even thrown a couple of our own parties here at Chez John, and no one even got food poisoning!
So dinner parties aren't all bad. Far from it. Go to enough dinner parties, and you run the risk of having a good time, and maybe even making new friends that are the kind of people you want to invite to your own home, because they're on the level, and they can cook, and they're smart, and funny, and they're not class warriors or elitists or helicopter parents or furverts.
[Side note: What's up with furverts?]
A great party doesn't have to be an all-out happy fest wherein everyone walks away fast friends. People go to parties to relax, have fun, and meet people. Of course, there are your awkward moments even at the great parties, because that's what happens in mixed company. It's not a big deal, though.
This isn't the best place for personal shout-outs, but suffice to say, if I've been to a party at your house in the last couple of years, I definitely want to come back, and I don't think that you're a sociopath or a bad cook or host, and I don't mind your pet(s) or your friend(s) as long as they don't mind me.
Also, that cajun bread you made was fantastic, Matt Lasher.